The Big Question: Will Gov. Deal sign Campus Carry II?

From left, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, state Rep. Darryl Ealum, state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims and state Rep. Gerald Greene are shown after the group flew into Albany to inspect tornado damage in January. The local legislative delegation, however, was split when it came to HB 280, also known as the Campus Carry Act. (Herald File Photo)

ATLANTA — For the second consecutive year, the Georgia General Assembly has passed a bill that will allow guns, with some exceptions, on public college campuses. And, like last year, reaction has been mixed.

House Bill 280 would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry firearms on public college and university campuses, with exceptions that include dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and buildings used for athletic events. On-campus child care centers would also be excluded, as would areas on some college campuses where high school students attend class.

The House passed a similar bill last year (HB 859), but it was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

“That college campuses should be a ‘gun-free zone’ is a concept that has deep roots in Georgia. … In the 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly, HB 60 was passed and I signed it into law. That bill greatly expanded the areas where licensed gun owners could take their weapons. At that time, campus carry was considered but not adopted,” Deal said in his veto statement. “I understand the concerns of the authors of this legislation (HB 859) and the parents and students who want it to become law. They apparently believe that the colleges are not providing adequate security on their campuses and that civilian police are not doing so on the sidewalks, streets and parking lots students use as they go to and come from classes.”

The bill that is on Deal’s desk now (HB 280) is essentially the same as 859, but with an added exemption for on-campus child care centers.

At this point, whether or not that exemption is enough to get Deal to sign the measure into law is anyone’s guess, but he has just three options: sign the bill into law, veto the bill or do nothing at all. In the latter case, the bill would become law without his signature in 40 days.

The final bill passed the House 96-70 with the four Albany-area members of the House split with one “no” vote from Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, a “yes” vote from Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert and two “did not votes” from Darrel Ealum, D-Albany, and Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg.

Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, voted “no” in the Senate.

“Governor Deal issued a fervent and detailed explanation with his veto of the campus carry bill last year. In my opinion, this year’s revised bill (HB 280) addressed some but not all issues raised from last year’s bill,” Ealum said. “HB 280 was one of the most contentious bills passed in this 2017 House Session. Even if the governor chooses to sign HB 280 with its added restrictions, many areas on college campuses will still be off limits.

“All areas where high school students may possibly attend will still be restricted; therefore, my prediction is that, with the huge influx of high school students on college campuses attending college and career academies, dual enrollment classes, move-on-when-ready classes, etc., the bill will not be near as far sweeping as originally believed.”

Asked for comment on the Legislation, Albany State University issued the following statement:

“Albany State University and the University System of Georgia believe the new exemptions improve the bill. ASU and USG prefer current law, but USG is reviewing the legislation to see how it could be implemented at USG institutions.”

The USG issued the exact same statement, minus “Albany State University.”

Georgia Southwestern State University, which lost an officer earlier this year in an incident near campus, did not return a call seeking comment from GSW Public Safety Director Mike Tracy.

Writer with The Albany Herald.

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